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Preparing Your School-age Child for Surgery

Child Life and Therapeutic Arts Programs

Before Surgery – School-Age (5 to 12 Years Old)

Talk to the healthcare team to make sure you understand your school-age child’s condition and how to support your child before surgery. You’ll be more relaxed and better able to offer comfort and reassurance.

What might my school-aged child be concerned about?

  • Waking up during surgery/anesthesia
  • Pain or death
  • How surgery may change appearances
  • Loss of control

What can I do to make the surgery experience less stressful for my school-aged child?

  • Be honest about what to expect. To maintain trust, it’s important to be honest with your child about the healthcare experience. Tell your child what is going to happen before, during and after surgery. Use words that are easy to understand. An example of this would be:

“A doctor will give you a medicine that makes you sleep during the entire surgery. This sleep is different from the sleeping you do at night. When you get the medicine, it makes you sleep in a way that you don’t feel, see or hear anything the doctors are doing. When they’re done with your surgery, they’ll stop giving you the sleeping medicine so you can wake up.”

  • Give your child time to process the information. Talk to your child a week or two before the surgery. Encourage your child to express his or her thoughts or feelings regarding the surgery and be supportive of your child’s feelings. 
  • Continue the conversation. Children may misunderstand information that is shared or overheard. It’s a good idea to ask your child to share his or her understanding of what will happen during the hospital visit/stay. This will give you an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions.

Involve your support system. Video chatting, phone calls and text messages can be a great way for family members and friends to be involved in your hospital experience. You can also ask them to draw pictures or write letters to your child to help keep them connected.

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